Do you think Donald Trump is just Mike Pence’s puppet?
Interesting idea, right? Particularly since the very idea would make our new president totally nuts. Hehehehe.
And it’s possible. Trump is not a man who concentrates on policy issues. So far, the parts of the job that have obsessed him most are crowd size and vote size. And yeah, the wall. But there has to be somebody behind the scenes deciding the non-ego questions. Pass the word that it’s Pence.
The best early evidence is reproductive rights. Not an issue that Trump seemed all that interested in during the campaign — you generally had to sort of poke him to bring it up. Yet one of the first things he did as president was to sign an order that will eliminate American aid to international health programs that provide information on abortion.
Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has issued the order, which is often referred to as the global gag rule. But Trump’s seems much worse. The Reagan-Bush-Bush version covered family planning programs. Trump’s targets global health in general.
So when it comes to combating the Zika virus in South America, we’ll only be helping organizations that are willing to order their staffs never to bring up the fact that abortion exists. We’re talking about a potential loss of billions of dollars in American aid.
I know some of you are having trouble giving the president credit for anything right now. But this doesn’t sound like him.
If a woman Trump knew was pregnant and learned she had a virus that could cause terrible brain damage to the fetus, his immediate reaction would not be barring everybody from mentioning the word abortion. The only politician who would behave like that would be someone who had spent his entire career trying to impose his deeply held conservative religious values on people who had different beliefs.
That would be Mike Pence. This is the guy who, as a member of Congress, co-sponsored a bill that would allow hospitals to deny abortions to pregnant women who would die without the procedure. Whose war against Planned Parenthood when he was governor of Indiana led to the closing of five clinics. (None of them did abortions. They did, however, provide testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and one of the counties where a clinic was closed suffered a big HIV outbreak.)
Pence, by the way, also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter act for equal pay for women. He once argued that having two working parents would lead to “stunted emotional growth” in children. In 2006, he said same-sex couples were a sign of “societal collapse.” I am just mentioning this for you to remember the next time you hear people say they hope that President Trump is impeached.
Trump was once very vocally pro-choice. When he became politically ambitious, his attitude went through a dramatic change — in terms of evolution, it was as if a little amoeba floating in the ocean suddenly turned into a killer whale. In 2016, he went all the way over the deep end and told Chris Matthews on MSNBC that he thought once abortion was illegal, women who got them should be punished.
He backtracked on that one.
“I’ve been told by some people that was an older line answer and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago on a very conservative basis,” he explained.
Obviously that doesn’t make any sense, but you do get the general idea that Trump was getting his talking points from someplace other than his deepest heart.
The early Trump administration, however, looks as if it’s being run by somebody who can’t wait to jump into the abortion fray. Republicans in Congress are working away on defunding Planned Parenthood — an organization that Trump once said he admired. And the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees women’s right to get birth control coverage in their health insurance, is of course target one.
“Women who are economically stressed and counting on those benefits are so frightened,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood.
Richards said Planned Parenthood clinics are fielding desperate calls from women who want to get birth control while they can — many of them opting for IUDs under the theory that they’ll need something that could last four years.
They also ask what they can do to fight back. She’s telling them to call their senators, or member of Congress, and show up if their legislator holds a town hall — possibly wearing one of those pink hats.
All that makes perfect sense. But given the kind of guy that Donald Trump is, I propose you also spread the word that the president has only gone on this anti-reproductive rights bender because he’s under Mike Pence’s thumb.
How do you think he’d feel about being referred to as Lap Dog Trump? Let’s go for it.
Gail Collins writes for The New York Times.